Men’s Health: Folate and Sperm

mh-april-1.jpgCertain vitamins are essential for the proper formation of sperm.

A ‘seminal study’ has been released that shows how men’s health and reproduction is affected by sub-optimal levels of folate (folic acid, one of the B vitamins). It has long been recognized that folate deficiency in women leads to higher rates of birth defects, particularly ‘neural tube’ defects that result in brain and spinal malformations. Any woman who intends to become pregnant is told to supplement with folate to prevent these problems. Now, men are also instructed to take additional folate well before attempting to become fathers. This is based on new evidence that a diet rich in folic acid helps in the formation of normal sperm cells.

Each of the B vitamins plays a role in the energy production within cells. They are needed for everything from good nerve transmission to bone formation. It appears from latest research that folate has a ‘special’ role and benefit for men’s health.

In the normal production of the male reproductive cells, it is considered typical to have up to one in twenty sperm cells be abnormal, having either too many or too few chromosomes (a condition called aneuploidy). Scientists at UC Berkeley discovered a link between folate levels in men and the rate of abnormal sperm. The more folate consumed the better chance of having normal sperm cells and conversely, those whose folate was low had many more defective sperm.

The BBC reported that for men with ‘fertility problems’ (difficulty conceiving), supplementing their diets with zinc and folate increased their overall sperm counts, as well as helped prevent the formation of abnormal sperm. This helped prevent certain genetic abnormalities in their offspring.

Researchers in Holland evaluated men who had been clinically infertile for no known reason and compared them with a control group of normally fertile men. Half were then given vitamin supplements of folate and zinc. The previously infertile men who took the supplements showed a 74% increase in the number of normal sperm cells in their semen, while the fertile men also had increases, although smaller in comparison.

It’s clear that our bodies require adequate levels of nutrients to function properly. Although we’ve often overlooked this vital aspect of men’s health, we now know that the next healthy generation depends on us having proper genetic expression through optimal nutrition.

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